In 2018 I wrote a blog about my struggle with anxiety. With May being Mental Health Awareness month, I figured now would be a good time to revisit and update you on how I’ve been doing.
Within minutes of posting that blog I couldn't believe the amount of texts, calls and emails I received from people dealing with similar things. To be honest, if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that everyone is going through something and has their own battles to face. No one is unique, we’re bound by a commonality of struggle. Struggle is what makes us human, and what allows opportunities to grow.
All good things in life come with some sort of consequence, and all bad things come with a lesson.
Yin and yang.
You can’t have one without the other.
The main issue around my anxiety in 2018 was around a fear of fainting. Over the period of a month I fainted three times unexpectedly and started becoming obsessive about when it was going to happen next. I loved public speaking and being able to share our Portland Gear story with others, but once this fear set in I became increasingly nervous about standing in front of people in fear I’d faint and look like an idiot. It all climaxed to a guest lecture I was giving to 400 students when I started hearing the voice in my head,
“You’re going to faint. You better get to the ground.”
I started experiencing my first panic attack. Standing vulnerable in front of these students I faked a leg injury so I could sit on the ground and was able to muster the courage to get through the presentation. I couldn't even drive home in fear of fainting and crashing. I’d hit rock bottom.
The next day I went to the Dr. and said I didn’t want to feel that way ever again. He recommended a mix of medication and therapy, both which I started the next day.
For weeks after, while getting used to the medicine I just wasn’t myself. I didn’t like how it made me feel and I ended up getting off it after only one month. I needed to face my battles head on and figure out what was at the core of my problems.
After months of therapy and self work, I realized the sudden growth of Portland Gear in the years prior were starting to wear on me, and my body just couldn't keep up. I was always on my phone, posting on Instagram, designing new products, experiencing the city, networking, selling, that I’d lost all boundaries of self. I lived above my store at the time and was quite literally always working. The business grew over 1000% in a few years and I was suddenly managing and overseeing something much larger than I’d ever even dreamed of.
I realized I needed change and my wife Noelle and I moved to NE Portland, got a dog, and started enjoying our life with healthy boundaries. This move turned out to be incredibly needed and I started feeling better after a few months. Sitting here today though, I still experience anxiety every time I give talks even though I’ve processed this issue many times and have a good understanding of my mind and body. This might just be something I have for life, but I try to never let it stop me and continue to dream of giving big talks and sharing the story of Portland with thousands of people.
Right as I was starting to feel better, it was time for Noelle and I to welcome our first child Kinley, into the world. Heading to the hospital full of anticipation, fear, worry, excitement, they induced Noelle and we settled in for what we hoped would be an easy process.
Her body was not ready to move along as fast as the medicine was progressing her so she instantly felt the pain of labor. The first night was an out of body experience, seeing someone you love in so much pain was hard to watch, but through patience, body work and the nurses, we made it through. After 8 hours of pain, they came in and measured her, only to see that she had still not dilated at all.
I was sitting there thinking the baby would be there any moment, but boy was I wrong. Over the next 24 hours Noelle experienced crazy amounts of pain with epidurals not working and having to be replaced three times. I was doing my absolute best to be strong and be there for her, but we were starting to get so tired without sleep and the emotional drainage.
She proceeded to push for 4 hours.
4 hours of yelling, screaming, pain, all with the medicine barely working.
Just pure, out of body strength from her. I was blown away.
The Dr. finally came in and said Kinley was not moving as her head was too large to make it through the birth canal and that we’d need to do a c-section.
After seeing what Noelle went through for nearly 34 hours, the effort she put in to not have the reward she had dreamed about was hard, but knowing the baby's safety was the priority, the decision was a no brainer.
No faster than you could have a sip of water, 4 nurses came rushing in and started preparing her for surgery and getting her ready.
Not only were we both exhausted, but we were now scared and worried.
They took her across the hall for surgery and I found myself alone in the room, just trying to comprehend what had happened.
A nurse walked in and said “here’s a jacket and head cover, head across and sit outside the room once you’re ready. They’re preparing her now.”
I was petrified of fainting in the operating room if I saw something unexpected. My fears were starting to come true.
I was so far beyond anxious and nervous that a sense of calm came over me. There was nothing I could do at this time other than be there for Noelle, say a prayer for everyone's safety and hope for the best.
I walked into the room where nurses and doctors were all around and I saw Noelle laying there under layers of operating tarps and sheets. I sat next to her head and tried my best to calm and love her.
I was scared, but she was scared even more. She’d never been admitted to a Hospital before or ever had a surgery. She was overwhelmed.
One doctor proceeded to pinch her stomach with a metal tool to make sure she was numb.
“Ouch. I can feel that” Noelle said.
“Oh it’s okay, you’ll feel some pressure.” The nurse said.
As they started to cut Noelle open for operation she yelled out a scream and nearly jumped off the table.
“I CAN FEEL IT.” She said,
They didn’t give her any numbing medication as they thought her epidural was still in, but little did they know it hadn't been working.
They proceeded to cut into another layer of her body..
“AHHHH. OUCHHH. PLEASE. I can feel it. Someone.”
Her body again nearly jumped off the table, flailing in pain. Me watching on with utter horror on my face.
Not only was I concerned about the baby, but now my wife was literally feeling people cut her open while laying there.
The energy in the room took a dramatic turn after her second yell and they began scrambling to help her. They poked her with something and within seconds her whole body went limp and she passed out.
After 35 hours of no sleep, hardly eating, exhaustion, to now being seated next to your unconscious wife wondering if either her or your daughter were alive was the hardest, and longest few minutes of my life.
I’d never been so far out of my body before. All I could do was put my head on Noelle’s shoulder and pray. Anything to take my mind out of what I was experiencing and seeing. I was past crying, past anxiety, past fear.
I was numb.
Next I could feel them yanking her body, working to get the baby out. I’d yell out.
“Is she okay? Is the baby ok? Anyone?”
In which someone would hardly reply with a “we’ll let you know.”
After a few more minutes I heard her cry for the first time.
Relief. Tension. Fear.
Around the corner they showed me my daughter for the first time, a moment we’d been dreaming about as a family for the last 9 months. Well, even longer when you consider it took us almost two years to get pregnant and the two miscarriages we experienced.
This moment of seeing my child for the first time, this moment you see in movies, to me, became something I’m not proud of sharing and is hard for me to write.
I was angry at Kinley.
I didn’t like her.
This beautiful child, this miracle from God, this thing we’d prayed so long for, became the physical embodiment of all the trauma and pain we’d just experienced.
I was mad at her. I was mad at myself for even being mad at her. I was mad at the Doctors. I was mad at God.
My wife was still passed out behind me. I was alone. I didn’t have support. And I was worried about whether my wife would make it out alive.
I just didn’t have any mental capacity for love, of anyone, myself included.
The following few days were hard in the Hospital and I had to have my parents come drive us home for the first time because I was having small panic attacks and didn’t feel safe driving.
The following weeks were hard for both of us, both physically and emotionally.
Do we sue the Hospital? What kind of therapy do we need? How do we support each other?
Once we were home and settled, I started experiencing intrusive thoughts. Although in my core I loved this baby more than anything in the world, I was still fragile from what I’d experienced. I started having really horrible thoughts about harming Kinely, dropping her down the stairs or driving off the road. This was terrible.
I felt so low.
This was not me, this was not who I was.
I’m a loving, caring, family first person. I’m all about people, community and putting others first. Now, for the first time ever, I was broken and having horrible thoughts.
Although I knew I’d never do anything to actually harm her and I'd do my best to let those thoughts just pass by,it was scary for the first two weeks, and telling Noelle was the worst part. I needed to share with someone, I needed support, but in telling Noelle she got very scared and nervous for the safety of Kinley, which I completely understood.
Through immediate therapy and sharing my experience with others I found healing and within a few weeks Noelle and I were both doing much better and loving our little angel.
I share all of this to reiterate my point at the beginning, everyone is going through something, and you may never know. Mental health is a huge problem facing our city, we all feel it. There is no one way to help or fix everyone, all we can do is treat each other as humans and know that everyone has their battles.
We must commit to love, and accept and take care of people for who they are. Love is really the only way to heal and treat the problems of this world. Be empathetic, take care of others, do nice things for people, and love people unconditionally.
If you’re going through something, know you're not alone. If you’re at a great place in life, be the shoulder someone needs. Talking about Mental Health should be part of our normal, day to day conversations, not just saved for one month out of the year.
Be intentional about checking in on your loved ones, create space for people to open up, and love others how you’d want to be loved. We’re all part of this journey called life and we need each other now more than ever. Two years of a pandemic and isolation was hard, this is our chance to come together again and give and be loved.
Thank you for reading this. If you feel compelled to support internal mental health initiatives here at PG and our "Wellness Week" event - 100% of proceeds from the "PAUSE" collection, the shirt Marcus is wearing, will benefit this mission.